Pure Madness

My thoughts on the "behind the scenes" of life. You will find inspiration here. Share it generously


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‘Touching Base’

Calling people by their first name is one of the indications of close friendship. When I got an email confirming my trip to ‘Base’, I felt like I was being invited to one of those multilevel marketing meetings where everyone seems happy and as if they’ve known each other for ages.

Since I was in Ukunda which is a few kilometers from Base, I confirmed my attendance as I tried hard to manage my expectations with little success. I have outgrown a couple of things in my life but the excitement of visiting a new place has refused to leave me.

When the cab driver picked me up in the morning I couldn’t hide my excitement so I went on to start a conversation, “What do you know about Base Titanium?” I asked as I ignored an incoming call. (I did not want any distractions at the time – sorry caller).

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The view of one of the Ukunda streets from my taxi. The Tuk tuk is a very popular means of transport here.

Luckily, the cab driver had a lot to say about Base Titanium and how it is benefiting the community by building schools, hospitals, roads and offering many other people employment opportunities. The guy went on and on and I was almost getting irritated because he was preempting my trip. To make matters worse, when we turned into the tarmac road that leads to the company he kept to the speed limit of 60kph! Who does that? There were no other cars in site!

As the driver went on speaking about how the company was helping the community, I zoned out and started focusing on the many road signs. Children crossing, sharp bend ahead… suddenly a 4×4 pick up with its lights on, a siren light on top and a reflective flag appeared from them corner. I hadn’t even opened my mouth to ask about it, the cab driver picked the cue and started talking about the many cars that Base Titanium had and how they had given jobs to many drivers.

I was ready to walk the rest of the way when I spotted huge structures that looked like silos or warehouses ahead. We came to a barrier and one of the guards started to approach the car waving for him to slow down. I could see some trucks in the compound and the huge structures were now fully visible. The guard asked for my ID and demanded to know what I wanted and if I had an appointment. He took my ID and went to talk what sounded like gibberish on the walkie talkie as he inspected the car, my bags even my camera! To be honest I felt like I had come to a ‘mini UN building.’

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Base Titanium Limited checkpoint

The guard came back smiling handed me my ID back and asked his colleague to open the barrier. Toyota should consider adding a sun roof to the small cars they produce. I felt as if I was being denied a basic right by being confined to the front seat. We came to another gate and just like the first one, everyone was in uniform, some reflective clothing on top (no political message at the back) boots and glasses. I felt like I was in the movies and this a “high security facility.”

I paid the driver off quickly because a very inquisitive guard came and stood right next to our car. I was escorted to another room at the gate where my details were taken and my bag confiscated (well, I added that to build drama). But they did ask me if I minded leaving the bag behind to pick it when I was leaving. Unfortunately, the security guys didn’t take my fingerprints. I had prepared an argument inspired by people with questionable character who operate under the motto; “Never let anyone take your finger prints.” Apparently, once they do, you can be tracked by all agencies including FBI, Interpol, KPF (Kenya Police Force – we need a cool name for them) and not forgetting the KMC (Kenya Maroon Commandos – these guys can get a confession out of you by just singing!).

Long story short, there I was seated in a class alone with a bulletin in front me, a visitor’s badge on my polo t-shirt and a pen. I was asked what my shoe size was and I answered hesitantly. After signing that I had read and understood the safety requirement while at Base, I was handed a pair of safety shoes, a reflector jacket, a helmet and protective glasses. I was given a brief safety talk which I suspect was because the lady realized that I was too excited to read the entire bulletin. I was asked if I had any questions and even though I had many, I decided to follow the instructions from The Good Book, ‘…even a fool is considered wise when he is quiet…’ I was asked to buckle up even though we were only driving to the next block.

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My chaperones at Base, Simon (right) and Martin.

Eventually, the fun bit begun! I got into one of the pickups with siren light and a reflective flag. Simon Wall the External Affairs Manager and Martin Macharia, the Communications Consultant introduced themselves and pointed out they would give me a brief introduction into Base Titanium and what they do. They also mentioned that the golf clubs in the bag at the bag were not part of any safety requirements. I had already started wondering what kind of mining they do here.

I soon understood why most of the vehicles needed to be 4x4s. We had to navigate through a lot of mud and at times I stopped listening to Simon because I was sure we’d get stuck but Simon casually engaged the four-wheel drive every now and then without losing focus of what he was saying. A successful case of men multitasking.

When we finally got to the mine and Simon showed me the multi-million mining equipment, I was so disappointed! After going through all that safety precaution there were no explosions, no tunnels or underground carriages not even big guys covered in grease. Seeing my disappointment, Simon drew my attention to a huge dozer that was pushing soil into a conveyor unit that mixed the soil with water and poured it into huge pipes.  The pipes then carried the soil to another plant for further processing. That’s where all “the magic” happens.

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The Dozer Mining Unit (DMU) one of the multi-million mining equipment at Base.

As we moved to other parts of the mine, I couldn’t help but notice there was no noise, no thick smoke or residue hanging on nearby trees to be honest I did not see any environmental pollution. Maybe the movies had brainwashed me on what a mine was hence my expectations. Simon and Martin explained the whole process of mining as we moved to different parts of the mine including a dam that provided water for mining operations. I also got to see how they rehabilitate the mine so that it can be used for other purposes in future.

Truth be told, there is a lot that is happening up there that is more impressive than the machines, security and safety procedures. I found a group of interns being inducted and interesting enough they are not from the high and mighty campuses in the country. For every staff I met, I knew a family was being fed. I saw a school that Base has rehabilitated and heard many other things they are doing for the community. One company cannot solve all the problems of a county but Base is doing something. The enthusiasm of its staff tells it all!

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An 8.3 Million cubic meter dam built by Base Titanium Ltd. to provide water to the mining operations. The dam also holds rain water significantly reducing the risk of floods and ensures the community has a constant supply for their domestic use.

After unwillingly handing back my safety gear, I decided to use public means back to Ukunda and the security guys were kind enough to call for me a boda boda to take me to the main road. My boda boda guy however was not enthusiastic about Base at all. He complained that it’s not giving enough jobs and building schools and hospitals was not good enough. According to the boda boda guy Base should focus on giving the community more jobs. He even said that the locals employed by Base were the ones hindering the employment of other locals. How sad. Misinformation is such a bad disease. I asked him where he would be operating from if Base hadn’t built the road we were using and he casually answered that the government would have built one. I guess the national government would also bring him clients like myself daily.

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My ride from Base. This boda boda rider had quite a lot to say about the mining company.

I resolved to plan and go back to Base for a complete tour hoping that this time I can fully digest what they are doing up there and maybe this time hitch a ride on one of the multi-million dozers. I’m sure the driver would have better stories than the boda boda guy.


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20 Years Later and Death Still Hurts As Much

It was August 27th 1995; we were in school for remedial tuition. I was called from class by Mrs. Wang’ombe. This was not strange since I was the class prefect and it was common for teachers especially my favorite (Miss Carol), to call and send me out of school over lunch.

Guess who that sweet baby is...

Guess who that sweet baby is…

Something was different though. I could feel it. Mrs. Wang’ombe told me I needed to go see Mrs. Mathenge who lived near the school. She asked me to make sure everything was in order before leaving. As I walked to Mrs.Mathenge’s   I thought about many childish things but I never anticipated what I was about to be told.

I found Mrs. Mathenge waiting for me at her house. She started with some chit chat about how big my dog had become (a German shepherd I gave her since my mum would not let me keep it). Her eyes were blood shot red. I could tell she had been crying for a very long time. After trying to make me as comfortable as possible she finally gathered the courage to say it.

The entire world sunk. I became numb and every second seemed like a hundred years. I stared blankly at Mrs. Mathenge as she moved closer to where I was seated. She started crying and that’s when everything sped back to normal. I wailed heavily and from the heart. “You are a man Githaiga and you need to be strong for your sisters,” she said. At that point my tears dried up instantly and I never shed another tear until the day of the burial.

Mrs Njuguna back in the day

Mrs Njuguna back in the day

The last time I saw her, I was out playing with my friends. I saw my uncles walking her to the car and I dashed to say hi. “I am fine,” she said. “Go back and play, I will be back in no time. Please behave yourself. OK?” and she got into the car and they drove off. I went on to play. Everything would be OK. I was so wrong.

Mrs. Margaret Waihuni Njuguna was a woman I loved deeply. Even though I denounced her as my mother a million times, I loved her. Mrs. Waihuini was unpredictable. She was the love and terror in equal measure. She would switch between both characters anywhere and in a second. I seemed to provoke the terror side more than anyone else.

Mrs. Waihuini loved her family and especially her mother. Mrs. Waruguru Githaiga was the world to my mother and when she passed on my mother evidently lost her zeal and vigor. She was never the same again.  She had lost her source of inspiration. It’s like all she wanted was to go be with her mum. God granted her wish a few months later.

The Njugunahs. See those socks that boy is wearing?

The Njugunahs. See those socks that boy is wearing?

I lost the two most important women in my life at that time. My mother gave me over to my grandmother when I was a young boy. My grandmother ceasing the chance tried to take me to a local school but I couldn’t learn in the language they were using and so I refused to go back. I got my stubbornness from these two women.

My mother’s death was not painful until four years later when I finally cracked. It soon dawned on me that I was always too busy trying to be a man that I forgot to mourn her. I became bitter at the world for robbing me of my mother; my life, my everything. I was even more bitter at God because of not doing everything in His power to stop death from taking my mother.

What kind of a God can’t stop death? What kind of good God allows bad things to happen good people? Why would He take both of my parents when they world had billions of people he could take. What made it even worse was that “His people” said the wrong things in an attempt to console my sister and I. “She is in a better place”, “We loved her but God loved her more”, “She is watching over you from up there. “Though meaning well, these statements came back to haunt me four years later and I was furious because God seemed to have told everyone else about my mother’s departure apart from me.

Mrs Waihuni Njuguna. Quite Fashionable

Mrs Waihuni Njuguna. Quite Fashionable

When my mum died, my world ended. I was convinced that life wouldn’t go on. I believed that was the end of time as I understood it. I stopped dreaming unless the dream was about being with my mother. I hid my heart from hope and from faith. Nothing was worth holding on to. Moving to Nairobi made things worse because I was constantly reminded that I am in Nairobi because my mother was not around.

It’s been 20 years since my mother passed on. I have lived longer without her, something I never thought possible. Even though every now and then I miss her, I have learnt to live with the scars of her absence. Death of a loved one is a language that is unique to an individual but it’s the most painful experience anyone can ever go through. It only gets worse with the unanswered questions, the missed opportunities, and the ‘if onlys’ continue to haunt us long after the world has moved on.

Mr and Mrs Njuguna on their wedding.

Mr and Mrs Njuguna on their wedding.

I scoff at people who demand that we “move on.” Yes our lives must go on and they eventually do but if we are honest enough we will admit that we left a huge part of us “back there.” All the same the longer we live; the pain becomes part of us enough to be bearable. We learn to see the benefits of being alive. God grants us “better moments” every now and then like finding love, fulfilling our dreams, having our own family, being a source of hope to someone else or making a difference in other people’s lives.

But the more “better moments” we get, the more we wish our departed ones were here to be part of the stories they inspired. It’s been 20 years since I got to the end of the road. God has been gracious to give me many “better moments” including surviving a snake bite and life continues to surprise me every day. My mother’s corrections and affirmations continue to influence the kind of person I am today.

For everyone who is still asking the questions. There is nothing wrong with you. There is no expiry date to missing someone who passed on. One day, twenty or so years from now your “better moments” will creep up on you and warm your once frozen heart.

The Njugunahs representing about 25 years or so years ago

The Njugunahs representing about 25 years or so years ago. Do not look at the feet.

Hope.

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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Lessons from the Land of ‘Injera’.

#SomeoneTellEthiopians thank you for the many lessons they taught me for the short time was in Addis. When I left Kenya for Addis Ababa, there were two things I was told to look out for; spices in food because of my sensitive stomach and the beautiful ladies because of my curious eyes. Neither the ladies nor my stomach disappointed.

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It was rather easy to identify me as a foreigner the first few days and for obvious reasons. I was clearly disturbed by the beauty in Addis. Thank God for a friend who affirmed my seemingly rude and remote behavior by confirming that my reaction was not unique and that soon, I too would get used to the beauty. I never thought that was possible.

Beauty was not my only disorientation. In Addis, vehicles keep right and they are all left hand driven. I cannot even count the number of times I almost got knocked down because I crossed the road looking in the wrong direction. Something else that I could not get my head around was the number of big hotels in Addis. Maybe it’s because it hosts the African Union headquarters but hotels in Addis could very well be what exhibition shops are in Nairobi. (Exaggerations mine)

It was easy to identify that Ethiopian businessmen and businesswomen are not as aggressive as their counterparts here in Kenya. I walked into shops and restaurants where the attendants just looked at me from the comfort of their counters waiting until I called out to respond. Orders were forgotten a couple of times and even took longer to be served. We actually had to walk out of some shops because the attendant did not seem as if they wanted business that day.

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The transport industry is very similar to the Kenyan one even though the PSVs and taxis in Addis are quite old. PSVs in Addis still carry excess passengers and are driven recklessly. I still feel Kenyan PSVs are still leading in recklessness and unruly road etiquette. Ethiopia might soon catch up.

The most impressive thing about Addis was how much Ethiopians love their culture. From their food, coffee, music and dressing, it was evident that Ethiopians are proud of their culture. Coming from Kenya where we have different types of food to Addis where ‘Injera’ (Ethiopian national food made from teff flour) is served daily, it took me a while to adjust. Ethiopians love to have a cup of coffee after their meal. This is not the sachet coffee that Nairobi hotels whip up when you order. Its well brewed fine tasting coffee. I don’t like coffee because it give me heartburn but the coffee in Addis is so good that it was irresistible.(I never got a heartburn.)

Ethiopians love their music! You will hear it everywhere. What was even more surprising was how much they enjoyed listening to other Ethiopian communities’ music. I have to say, even though their music eventually grows on you, there are no adequate dancing styles to their songs. For Ethiopians, the mid-section of their bodies are seriously underutilized unlike in Kenya where every part of the body moves with more special emphasis on the waist line. Ethiopians dance a lot with their head, shoulders and feet. I felt as if I was in an aerobics studio each time I got up to dance to Ethiopian music.

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Even though there are over 7 different tribes in Ethiopia, they seldom describe each other on tribal affiliation. They don’t have demeaning jokes about each other’s cultures. To them, they are one even though they are quick to admit that the ‘tribalism venom’ is beginning to creep up on them. It is very easy to assume that Ethiopians are a single culture and tribe community because they coexist so well.

I love my country Kenya. It’s a beautiful country with very rich cultures but it’s not until I saw how Ethiopians promote their culture that I realized how much we have lost in the name of modernization. There are many cultural centers across Addis where different Ethiopian communities sing and dance as they eat injera with other accompaniments including raw meat. The audience in these places – foreigners and Ethiopians alike enjoy these acts.

Ethiopia provoked me. I was inspired by the national identity the citizenry has and are proud of. They are not busy trying to keep up with the West. They try to make what they have work best for them. Ethiopians however, do have a long way to go when it comes to political, governance and freedom of expression issues. Kenya on the other hand has a long way to go to build believe and sell its own brand to the world. We have more than 42 reasons to believe in Kenya. Today, all that tourists want to see when they come to Kenya, is a Maasai Moran – and so many other communities are learning to masquerade as Maasai Morans.

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Who are we as Kenyans apart from people living in Kenya? What are the more than 42 reasons why any tourist would leave their country to come to Kenya? Better yet, what are the more than 42 reasons that you and I are proud to be Kenyans? We almost “lost” a couple of intellectual properties that we have always thought were uniquely Kenyan (Kikoy, Kiondo, Shuka etc). How much more do we need to lose before we, like the Ethiopians find what works for us as a country?

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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Get In the Kitchen

I often consider myself a good cook. I don’t know how to make fancy food but I can put together a burnt offering that tastes better than my friend Dj Soxxy. If you grew up as the only boy in your family you will agree with me that there are a few “traits” that you pick up either by force or willingly both of which are for your own piece of mind. Soxxy and I grew up as the only boys in our families. This meant that we had to learn a lot more than just kitchen stuff.

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Briefing from the professional.

In our home the kitchen and dining were “holy places”. We learnt early enough to take our plates to the kitchen after eating. Actually, you were not supposed to leave the dining table until you had swallowed your food. Talking with food in your mouth would easily land you a slap heavy enough to make you choke. No matter how late you were or what you needed to do urgently, my mother always operated on the principle “No balloons” which meant bite only what you could chew.

Beyond the kitchen, proper toilet use proved to be a difficult lesson for me. My mother made me clean the toilet every time I “missed the mark.” If by mistake I did not “shake well after use” especially because I was in a hurry to go out and play, I had to wash my shorts – an activity that was often accompanied by tears. Like most boys the first stop when you got back to the house had to be the bathroom. Sometimes you had to remove everything and still tip toe to the bathroom. If you never went through these critical steps of growth you need a refund because you never maximized your childhood.

There were two things that I was ordered never to play with. You need to understand that back then when your mother told you not do something she was not testing your knowledge of your rights as a human being. “My mother said No” was the most valid reason you could give and not have a re-battle. It was ultimate. So my mother in reasons best known to her as a mother declared from the roof top, “Thou in thine right mind or otherwise shalt not play with fire or a knife, for if you do you shall surely die and it’s not because you will hurt yourself. Far be it from you oh ye foolish son that I bore to be tempted to play with fire and/or knives.”

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Take 1!

So for a long time the kitchen was a place I was sent to wash dishes (I must have washed our knives with fear and trembling lest they tempt my curious mind). It goes without saying that the devil (who else) managed to tempt me to play with both and death has never seemed so real. The first aid I got was not medical. Eventually all these don’ts about the kitchen made me curious and so today there are few Kenyan meals I cannot cook. If that feels like a brag it very well could be. Top on my ‘to learn’ list was Chapati, until recently when the doctor banned wheat products from my diet.

I therefore don’t understand what got into Dj Soxxy to nominate me to compete with him on the popular K24 TV show Get in the Kitchen. I will not spoil the surprise for you. Watch the show on Tuesday at 8pm to find out who won. Let me also put it out there that Soxxy isn’t as fat friendly as I am. We can deduce a lot from just that. I highly advise against pitying him because of not being fat friendly. While at it, please remember the adage that says, ‘Never trust a skinny chef.’

That said, being on Get in the Kitchen was an awesome experience for all of us. It made me appreciate the effort that goes into that room every day. It is sad that we seldom appreciate the process (cooking) as much as we do the product (food). We have been told that kitchen is no place for men; I beg to differ. From the time we started to prepare what we would cook, it was obvious how many utensils we used to make a single meal. Luckily for us, we were having fun so we enjoyed ourselves as we cooked.

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Take 45!

Get in the Kitchen made me realize why my mother would get so offended when I said I did not feel like eating after she had worked tirelessly in the kitchen to put something together for me. Being a single mum, she must have worked hard to make enough to buy the food. She then had to make sure she was home in time to prepare the food for me. Regardless of how bad her day was, it never reflected on her food. My sisters learnt to cook early in their lives but when they were in school my mother made sure I had a great home cooked meal every day.

Cooking isn’t just about preparing food, it’s about planning and cleaning after. It’s about knowing way ahead what you want to achieve even before you start. You also have to factor in how to balance your meal. . When preparing the food itself you have to think about timing and when to add the ingredients. You consider the heat, the amount of water, the time, the portions and how best to present the food.

Cheering Squad!

Cheering Squad!

There are many injuries that occur in the kitchen as Soxxy found out. There are times when the food does not turn out how you wanted it to. Sometimes you are not even in the mood to cook while other times all you want is a well prepared meal by someone else. I know our culture emphasizes that there is no space for the man in kitchen but until you get into the kitchen, you will always take food preparation for granted.

As men, there is a lot that we can do in the kitchen beyond tasting if the meat is ready. If we never do anything else, we can at least get into the kitchen to keep our mothers, sisters, wives and Daughters Company. We can beat our chest as much as we want, we can complain about eating bad food or the same food for years but until you get into the kitchen we may never really understand what it means to have a good meal.

Guess who prepared this meal!

Guess who prepared this meal!

So before you complain about that meal, take time to appreciate the effort the person who prepared it for you put in. Even the simplest of foods takes effort and time to prepare so once in a while, it would be nice if you and I actually got in the kitchen whether as tourists, first aiders, motivational speakers, casual workers, chefs, messengers, spies, investigative journalists, plumbers, friends or simply as fathers, husbands brothers or sons who want to give the ones we love a hand. Gentlemen, let’s Get In The Kitchen!

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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In Your Dreams!

I am such a dreamer. I believe in extra ordinary possibilities. Yes, the line between faith and dreaming is probably very thin but what if there is a place for both? Of course I would like to be more of a faith person, it’s socially (and religiously) acceptable but I have to admit I am a dreamer.

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Being a dreamer is often looked at in bad light. If you walk up to a lady, (forget all the courage us guys need to muster before doing so,) and propose something you consider “extra ordinary.” Wouldn’t her most likely response to your foolish courage be “dream on” or “in your dreams”? Oh, and don’t forget that if you don’t approach her she will consider you a coward. We have to choose which title to live with when it comes to the ladies and most of the time it’s both a dreamer and a coward in equal measure.

I love dreaming. My mind is so animated that at times I feel like a young boy who still believes anything is possible. I thought this would stop once I hit my “thates” but every now and then in broad daylight I will catch myself dreaming. My dreams are so random that I cannot indulge you in such childish thoughts. I have however always thought of dreams as a precursor to faith which leads to action.

Do you dream? Have you ever dreamt of something very silly like having super powers? Powers that would make you uproot the corruption and poverty in this country? Have you ever dreamt that you had super powers to expose injustices and those behind it? Have you ever dreamt of being able to see people’s intentions and thoughts (especially our leaders?) Don’t you ever dream of being able to make “deserving” people’s lives better? Being able to pay school fees and hospital bills and take entire families for holiday? Am sure you have dreamt of sinking boreholes and discovering precious stones that would make Kenya a self-sufficient, wealthy nation.

Well, if you have ever dreamt of free, excellent education and health care, access to clean water and better sanitation for all Kenyans, better roads, no traffic, safe (not safer) neighborhoods, an efficient judicial system that defends the rights of all Kenyans and punishes all crimes evenly regardless of who commits the crime, if you have ever dreamt of better living conditions and low cost of living for every one including yourself, you are not alone and it’s not unusual. Far from it.

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What if destiny uses these “silly dreams” as a way of reminding us when we are settling for less? What if what we so quickly brush off as stupid dreams are seeds of faith germinating in us? What if our hearts and minds have a way of showing us the possibilities available for us if only we can dream? What if dreams are the future’s way of cheering us on to want and desire better than what we are getting now? What if dreams are our true voices speaking back at us, affirming what we believe but are fearful to reach out?

Imagine if we were crazy enough to dream. Imagine if you and I dreamt of better services from our government and the leaders we vote for. Imagine if we dreamt that our leaders in any capacity would do whatever it takes to be the best they can to deliver services to those under them. Imagine if we dreamt of refusing to pay bribes and being heroes enough to admit and pay the price for our mistakes. Imagine if we dreamt of standing up for what is right at whatever cost.

Imagine if we dreamt of ourselves being the change we want to see in our country. Imagine if we dreamt of ourselves being good citizens who are so proud of their country and each other that they defend it with everything they have. Imagine if we dreamt of leaving behind a dreaming legacy for our children and their children. Imagine if we dreamt of ourselves seeing our dreams come true.

I know what you are thinking “dream on” and “yeah, in your dreams.” But what if dreams are the future’s way of reminding us that everything is possible, if only we believe in our dreams? Dream on!

Eleanor Roosevelt’s once said “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Edits by Wanjiku Kimaru


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Death Announcement!

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the sad and untimely death of our dear friend, Courage. Until his death, Courage has been living in our hearts from birth. He will be joining his kin faith, hope, trust, optimism, confidence self-belief, sacrifice who passed on a while ago. Courage leaves behind fear, self-doubt, limitations, cowardice, timidity and faint-heartedness.

Kenya Liz rape victim

Courage will be remembered for energizing many hearts to keep believing even when all hope was lost. He was there when we were fighting for our independence. He made the freedom fighters intolerant of injustices that were happening at the time. It is because of him that the freedom fighters sacrificed their lives and took an oath not to relent until the generations that would come after them were free to be whoever they wanted.

Courage will also be remembered for leading men and women into fighting for democracy in Kenya. He is the one who kept them from giving up when they were tortured and humiliated for taking a stand. It was Courage that reminded these men and women what they were fighting for. He showed them that even though some would lose their lives in the process, their posterity would enjoy the fruits of a democratic country.

Courage will also be remembered for walking with individuals like the late Wangari Maathai who fought greedy and self-centered individuals and organizations that were hell bent on robbing future generations of their inheritance; a safe, clean and functional eco system. Today we enjoy the benefits of her sacrifice and our children will grow up in a clean, unpolluted environment.

Westgate heros saves child

You will remember Courage when he walked with individuals like the late John Michuki who dreamt of a safer public transport system. He put his foot down and refused to give in to pressure from the stakeholders in the sector. Today, his legacy lives on; public transport is orderly, safer and more comfortable than we could have ever imagined.

Before his demise, Courage has also been living in heroes and heroines who are still alive today. He was living in the GSU officer who chose to reason with rioters during the post-election violence period instead of using violence. Courage was at the center of the people who fought for this country to have a new constitution. He was in leaders who resigned from high positions because they did not want to be part of “the rot.” Unlike the famous “I’d rather die than resign” kind of leaders we are used to

Courage, if you can remember, has over the years put Kenya in the global map as he inspired many athletes to push themselves enough to win races and marathons. He has restored the pride we have in our country when our athletes have carried the Kenyan flag high every year. From the track to the swimming pool to the volleyball court the Kenyan flag has continued to soar.

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You too interacted with Courage a couple of times and can tell of his friendship. When you went out to demonstrate and demand justice over grabbed land, justice for rape victims and other seemingly ‘small’ injustices. You refused to keep quiet when something was not right. You let your voice be heard and when it wasn’t you, joined like-minded individuals to make it even louder. You brought the fight for justice home and into your networks, including social media. Any platform you got, you raised your voice and demanded justice. Thanks to Courage, your voice was heard, and you made a difference.

It took courage for you to wake up early that election morning to go vote for a new constitution and for a leader you believed in. You believed in the need for change and you actioned your belief. You chose leaders who had the courage to declare that they had what it would take to change the status quo. Courage made you see the benefits of your choice and you took the risk.

In his last days however, Courage lived a very lonely life. We all abandoned him and made deals with his enemies; fear and selfish ambition. We soon became cowards who only thought about themselves. We refused to respond to people who cried for our help and told ourselves that it was someone else’s responsibility. We built higher walls around our homes and around ourselves to keep people out.

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We soon joined networking forums not to offer others anything but to find out what they could offer us. We became selfishly competitive to the point of sabotaging colleagues so that we would look good. We stopped being courteous on the roads or anywhere else. Our selfishness became so severe that we started selling out our country and freedom to the highest bidder or just any bidder. We turned our back and hid our faces to injustices. We hid in our religious institutions saddened by how evil seemed to be thriving around us wondering what ill equipped simple people like ourselves could do in such times. Soon our country became the prey for terrorists, rapists thugs and land grabbers. We saw evil but shut our mouths to it and slowly Courage grew weaker and weaker.

Our leaders stopped listening to Courage. They forgot that Courage had once taught them that they were the heroes chosen by the people to fight injustices in society. They too became “crowds for hire” even at the cost of the mwananchi. They unanimously appointed a public servants who played to their tune and turned down qualified personnel that would bring the much needed change in the country. They ganged up and looted the country at any given chance.

So dear brethren, we are gathered here today to say goodbye to our departed friend. Our unsung hero who lived his latter years as a lonely, abandoned old man despite all that he helped us achieve over the years as individuals and as a country. Let us take this time to honor him by remembering all that we have lost in the demise of a dear friend, Courage.

(Moment of silence)

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru


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The Mau Mau Struggle – General Smart Memoir

“Mzee Kenyatta would have preferred a less violent way but enough was enough. There was no stopping us. We were under oath, we were ready to die. In fact, we had sworn that we would rather all die and let the mzungu have no one to rule. Those who broke their oath and betrayed our cause died and those who did not still suffer the consequences to date. We were long dead before the begun rebellion.”

Stanley Muriithi (General Smart) gives an account of his life as a Mau Mau fighter

Stanley Muriithi (General Smart) gives his an account of his life as a Mau Mau

It’s a cold night in Nyeri and we (The Nyoras – My Extended Family) are sitting under a tent attentively listening. The ladies are cooking at an open kitchen near the main house as the men roast meat near the tent. We cuddle together under the few blankets available feeling guilty that the old but upright-standing man in front of us is only wearing a suit. As he introduces himself, you can see most of his teeth are intact. He pauses every so often to smile and laugh heartily. Obviously, he is a happy man. As he begins to tell his story, we all lean in as if attempting to see his words.

Stanley Muriithi, known by the Mau Mau as General Smart, introduces himself first as a Born Again Christian who prays daily; that after he has fought the good fight here on earth, that he would be found worthy by God of the next life. That has become sole his purpose of living. Before he tells us how he joined the Mau Mau movement, he begins by telling us a brief history of how the white man, popularly referred to as ‘Mzungu’ ended up in Kenya. Stanley’s father, Mukabi, was employed by Delamare, a wealthy Mzungu from Gilgil. He got his name “Arm Bearer” from the fact that he had learned how to use a gun to keep off wild animals while he looked after Delamare’s cattle. In those days Africans were allowed to keep livestock but the white settlers kept pushing them further and further from their homes after which they would fence off the land as their own. Within a short time, the white man had amassed huge chunks of land and the local Africans had been displaced.

When the young men who had enrolled to fight in the World War finally came back home and found that their parents had been displaced and their farms taken over by white settlers, they were deeply troubled. It took most of them years to reconnect with their families. The fact that they did not get the hefty perks they had been promised when they enrolled to fight made things even harder. They were furious. They would later form a party Kenya African Union (KAU) to fight for their rights. Mzee Kenyatta was sent abroad by this party to plead the case of Africans and the injustices they were suffering under the arms of the white settlers.

Freedom fighters Mzee Jomo Kenyatta with Musa Mwariama. (Photo Courtesy of www.nipate.com)

Freedom fighters Mzee Jomo Kenyatta with Musa Mwariama. (Photo Courtesy of http://www.nipate.com)

On 12thNovember 1951, Mzee Kenyatta met the Mau Mau movement in Kiganjo. They took him to a granary, where they hid their weapons. When Mzee Kenyatta saw the weapons he asked his colleague and confidant Mzee Jesse Kariuki, “What are these for?” Mzee Jesse explained Mau Mau’s resolve to rebel against the mzungu and told Kenyatta that every one of those 626 guns he was looking at had an owner who was under oath and was ready to die for the cause.

This resolve by the Mau Mau made Mzee Kenyatta even more confident on his mission. To gauge how prepared the Mau Mau were on this cause he would constantly ask them, “If I hold the donkey’s head will you bear its violent kicks?” To which the Mau Mau would respond unanimously, “Yes we will!” Mzee Kenyatta would then ask, “Do you know that an oath cannot be quenched with water?” To which the Mau Mau would answer “Yes. It can only be quenched by blood.”

The Mau Mau devised a strategy that would paralyze the economy. No one would buy any products sold or produced by the mzungu. From cigarettes to popular hats worn by men. If whatever one wanted was not provided by a native, then the alternative was to get it from an Indian shop. Alarmed, the colonial government responded by announcing a state of emergency and started arresting people who were aligned to the Mau Mau. Many were arrested while others beheaded.

This however did not deter the Mau Mau’s resolve for independence. As the Mau Mau prepared to leave their homes and go into the forest, leaders were identified to take charge of different groups. Young men were in charge of recruiting new people to take the oath and join the movement while women would cook and take the food to different groups in the forest. Well-equipped make shift hospitals run by police doctors were established for those who would get hurt in battle.

Freedom Fighter Dedan Kimathi is handed his leopard-gazelle hide regalia after he was arrested. He was later hanged at Kamiti

Freedom Fighter Dedan Kimathi with his leopard skin regalia after he was arrested. He was later hanged at Kamiti

As the battle raged on, some of the Mau Mau who had taken the oath went back on their word and not only surrendered but also sold out their counter parts. Many of the Mau Mau who had been exposed were arrested and detained, while others were hung.

General Smart, who was in charge of the armory evaded arrest a couple of times in which he credits to God watching over him. He recounted how he used to carry a gun (Ka-minor) tucked in between his thighs. One time, the soldiers came looking for him accompanied by local teachers who knew him well. They asked everyone to line up and show their identity. Even though the teachers knew General Smart very well they could not identify him.

The soldiers then started checking everyone’s identity cards. General Smart knew his time had come and unbuttoned the guns sheath ready to fire. When they came across a man named Kimathi, they assumed that it was one of the most wanted Mau Mau leader Dedan Kimathi. They all ambushed him in a bid to find out who he really was. While they were all distracted, General Smart slowly walked over to the other side where the soldiers had already checked the IDs. When they finally realized that it wasn’t Dedan Kimathi, they went on to check the remaining IDs oblivious of the fact that General Smart had already moved to the front of the line. Another time as he was being chased by the soldiers carrying two guns he hid under a Somali woman’s dress as she sat outside her house braiding her hair.

General Smart was eventually captured after a colleague exposed him. Mzungu soldiers accompanied by the home guards arrested him and after his colleague identified him, he was shot and left for the dead. The last thing he remembers before blacking out was the smell of fried meat. He was unconscious for four days. When he regained consciousness he woke up to find himself lying under dead bodies with safari ants and flies everywhere. It took another three days for him to get help. Jackals and hyenas would sniff him and walk away as elephants made a stop at a nearby tree, every so often to scratch themselves.

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After nine days with the dead General Smart was rescued and even before he learnt how to walk again the colonial soldiers came back for him and demanded that he shows them where the Mau Mau hid their weapons. He was later taken to Kapenguria prison for almost a year after which he and 26 other prisoners were later transferred to Mackinnon Road detention camp in 1954 where all sorts of inhumane torture was administered. While at Mackinnon, many Mau Mau’s died from typhoid and other diseases because they were forced to stay naked as they served their sentence. General Smart remained in detention for six years.

Even though independence eventually came, it was not without a cost. Thousands of lives were lost and a lot of blood was shed. General Smart talked in depth about many of his experience that cannot be put into words. But as he concluded his talk, we could not help but wonder what happened along the way because today Kenyans live their lives way below the standards that Stanley Muriithi – General Smart – and others fought and lost their lives for. They certainly did not lose their lives for us to be selfish and corrupt enough to sell our country at any cost.

The likes of General Smart and other unsung freedom heroes lay down their lives to ensure we, their descendants, live a better life. What are you and I ready to lay down our lives to defend so that our children and their children may live a better life than we are?

Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru

To listen to the Gen. Smart’s narration (in Kikuyu) click on the link below: